In her 39th season, Patti Hower reached 700 career wins in Lebanon Catholic girls basketball's win over Lancaster Mennonite on Friday night

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Patti Hower's been at this coaching thing for 39 years now, longer than many who were in the gym at Lebanon Catholic on Friday night have been alive.

In that time, she's touched and impacted countless lives on and off the basketball court, and made the Lebanon Catholic girls basketball program one of the more well-known and enduring athletic success stories in the state of Pennsylvania.

Obviously, that's because she's done a lot of winning in those nearly four decades on Assumption Hill. There's the little matter of the 18 District 3 1A championships and two state titles her teams have captured along the way, which stand as an indisputable testament to her coaching greatness.

And then there was Friday night's 57-43 victory over Lancaster Mennonite that gave her 700 - good grief - career wins as head coach at Lebanon Catholic.

It's a staggering, almost incomprehensible number of wins. 700?! Yep, 700. And just 357 losses, leaving Hower a mere 343 games over .500 for her distinguished and highly decorated coaching career.

It's a tough thing to wrap one's head around, even for the person who accomplished it. But following a postgame celebration with her team, a quietly jubilant Hower did her best.

"Right now, when it's over, it's pretty emotional," Hower said. "I guess I really won't appreciate it until I'm long retired and think back. That's pretty many wins, pretty many games, pretty many years. I guess what I think about most is all the players that played for me over all the years that contributed to those 700 wins.

"If I didn't have them, I probably wouldn't have stuck it out. I have had great kids over the years. Some good players, some maybe not as good players. But they've all been great kids, and that makes you stick it out."

And those players, past and present, paid tribute to Hower on Friday night. The current group did so with their spirited, if sometimes inconsistent, play, and with the words of junior forward Alexis Hill, who was simply sensational with a game-high 33 points.

"I'm happy for her and I'm happy to be a part of the team," said Hill, in her first season playing for Hower after transferring from Lebanon High. "I've learned from her, I've learned a lot of new things and I feel like I'm improving because of her. She was humble about it, (700 wins) didn't come out of her mouth (before the game). But for the team, we wanted this for her. We wanted to win for her."

Those who played for Hower long before she began approaching such lofty milestones were equally pleased to have contributed to those 700 victories, including 1994 alum Tina Litz-Verna, a member of Hower's first state title team in 1992.

"Coach Hower encompasses dedication, desire, and determination," said Litz-Verna, who still occasionally returns to Assumption Hill to scrimmage with the current team. "It was an honor to play for a coach who invested so much in her players both on and off the court."

Hower was able to invest so much in part because of the familial bond that exists on her staff. There's her best friend and longtime assistant Mike Mohl, who's been by her side for the majority of the 700 wins, her father Ed Werth, and her daughter Becky Hower-Kleinfelter, a star player for her mom in the late 1990s and early 2000s who still holds Lebanon County's all-time scoring mark.

"If you look at my staff, it's family," Hower said. "Who wouldn't want to go (coach) with their family and their best friend every day. I'm happy I've been able to do this with my dad, my daughter and my best friend. And like I said, the players. They've all been special. I've had very few problems. It's just been a good 39 years."

And it's sure not over yet. With Friday's win, the Beavers improved to 13-5 overall, 9-2 in Section 3 and remained in the section title hunt with three league games remaining.

It wasn't easy, with point guard Neesha Pierre sidelined much of the night by foul trouble, but Catholic persevered and gave Hower the milestone victory and yet another reason to be grateful for the four-plus decades she's spent as a teacher and coach on Assumption Hill.

"It's special," she said. "This is a special group, but all my teams are special in one way or another. I never pursued anything else. I'm happy here. I'm thankful that Lebanon Catholic gave me this opportunity and allowed me to run my program the way I wanted to run it. It's my alma mater and I'm happy to have built a good program here and hopefully it will continue once I'm long gone."

Lebanon Catholic 57, Lancaster Mennonite 43

Lancaster Mennonite (43)

Hurst 1 6-7 8, A. King 3 3-4 9, Walter 3 3-5 9,  Bronkema 4 0-0 10, Peters 2 1-4 5,  C. King 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 13-20 43

Lebanon Catholic (57)

Hill 12 9-14 33, Pierre 1 0-0 2, Mars 3 0-0 6, Turner 4 2-4 10, Shellehamer 0 0-0 0, Callihan 1 3-4 6, Kline 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 14-22 57.

Lancaster Mennonite 13 11 7 12 - 43

Lebanon Catholic 16 17 15 9 - 57

3- pointers: LM - Bronkema 2 , LC - Callihan

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